What it means to be Canadian: Rick Mercer revisits cross-country TV experiences in new memoir, The Street Years

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In Rick Mercer’s new e-book, The Street Years: A Memoir Continued …,” there’s a chapter about visiting 24 Sussex Drive when Stephen Harper was prime minister.

It was for a 2006 phase of The Rick Mercer Report that may discover the comic–speak present host being warmly and generously welcomed by the Prime Minister in an over-the-top method, which was meant to be an elaborate joke referencing Harper’s popularity for being less-than-warm and welcoming to the media, the CBC and human beings typically. Mercer outlines the go to in a chapter referred to as Stephen Harper on the Downlow. Regardless of the premise of the phase, it turns into clear early on that Mercer’s go to can be markedly completely different than the curiously informal ones he made to Sussex Drive when Prime Minister Paul Martin resided there, that are additionally outlined within the e-book.

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From the start, a workforce of Harper’s eager-beaver younger staffers have been eager to micro-manage the go to whereas showcasing “barely camouflaged hostility” in direction of the thought typically. They objected to furnishings being moved to facilitate the cameras. They objected to the lighting gear cluttering up 24 Sussex Drive. In actual fact, they objected to the crew utilizing any type of lighting in any respect for the phase, even after the fundamental mechanics of tv manufacturing have been defined. When filming started, Mercer requested Harper a query about The Clear Air Act and one of many younger staffers started shouting on the host whereas the cameras rolled. He objected to his beloved boss being grilled about such issues. Harper grinned and gently informed the younger man that he was joyful to reply the query and the rest Mercer requested.

Mercer by no means noticed that younger staffer once more.  

If this doesn’t sound acquainted, that’s as a result of this surreal second by no means made it to air. Positive, it appears like a golden nugget of cringe-inducing darkish political comedy worthy of HBO’s Veep, to not point out doubtlessly funnier than the phase that truly aired. However that’s not the way in which Mercer and his crew tended to roll.

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“When the staffer yelled ‘No!,’ that was on digital camera,” says Mercer, in an interview with Postmedia from Toronto. “He wasn’t, however each of our reactions would have been and the audio would have been as a result of we have been mid-interview and the cameras have been rolling. We might have put that on and it might have actually raised eyebrows and have become a type of tales that was truly lined on the political chat reveals and stuff. It did converse to what lots of people have been speaking about, the way in which the PMO acted. However we all the time had an settlement – it wasn’t essentially verbalized – that we have been by no means a ‘gotcha’ present and that may have been a ‘gotcha’ second and we didn’t go in there seeking to embarrass anybody.”

It’s not the primary or the final reminder that Mercer’s present was Canadian to the bone: Not with out the occasional edge, maybe, however usually very Canadian in its mild diplomacy. The Street Years is a followup to 2021’s Speaking to Canadians, which chronicled Mercer’s upbringing in Center Cove, N.L. and his early to mid-career in comedy. The Street Years picks up the place the earlier e-book left off, which was proper earlier than the 2004 launch of The Rick Mercer Report.

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Not like Speaking to Canadians, Mercer didn’t write The Street Years in chronological order. He jumps round to varied intervals and themes from the present. For political junkies, there’s loads of fodder to take in. A part of the enjoyable could also be attempting to determine what Mercer thinks of varied politicians by studying between the strains. On the odd event, he’s clear. His admiration for Belinda Stronach, who ran towards Harper in 2004 for the management of the newly fashioned Conservative Get together and impressed Mercer’s Unfold the Internet marketing campaign by inviting him on a visit to Africa together with her, is apparent. So is his admiration for Harper, as a result of he writes about it immediately at one level within the e-book, making one other deeply Canadian remark about how unimaginable it’s for a politician blessed with so few outwardly apparent political items to achieve such heights in politics.

“I truly discuss how he’s probably the most spectacular prime minister I’ve ever seen,” Mercer says. “With a view to be elected, you must have sure instruments in your toolbox. Most politicians are born with these instruments … and Stephen Harper doesn’t have a lot of these instruments. He doesn’t wish to speak to a stranger on a airplane, and that’s not a criticism as a result of a lot of folks don’t. However, usually, the Brian Mulroneys, the Chretiens and people forms of folks can be very happy to chew the ear off of whoever they’re sitting subsequent to, whether or not they’re a CEO or engaged on an meeting line. Stephen Harper shouldn’t be that man, he doesn’t wish to knock on doorways and speak to strangers. He’s a coverage man. I’ve a sure respect for him only for the success he achieved by being the kind of individual he’s. He was mainly an introvert.”

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Readers wouldn’t have to be taken with Canadian politics to take pleasure in The Street Years. The underlying query that fuels the e-book is launched within the first line of the primary chapter: “What does it imply to Be Canadian?” Whereas Mercer might embrace a lot of political figures within the e-book to assist reply the query, he additionally revisits segments from his present that had him overlaying the impressed and infrequently weird actions that common people have interaction in throughout the nation. That features chapters about how he was roped into collaborating in one thing referred to as the Prepare of Demise in Varney, Ont., an ill-advised race involving three vehicles chained collectively. “The aim is to encourage high-speed pileups. It’s a motorsport invented in hell,” he writes. Mercer additionally writes how he sported a beard of bees throughout a phase based mostly out of a farm close to Langley. B.C., regardless of not realizing if he was allergic to bee stings.

Mercer additionally isn’t afraid to fanboy over Canadian celebrities within the e-book. That’s most obvious within the chapter on his interactions with legendary prog-rock trio Rush. He did segments with bassist-vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson however is most enthralled with an episode when he receives classes from the late Neil Peart, Rush’s press-shy however supernaturally proficient drummer. Mercer additionally dedicates a complete chapter to his relationship with Calgary singer-songwriter, actress, TV host and creator Jann Arden, which has lasted almost 20 years. Arden is ready to publish her debut novel, The Bittlemores, and can be part of Mercer on a literary tour that features a sold-out Calgary occasion on Nov. 17 at The Grand. Again after they first met in 2004, Mercer solely knew the singer from her doleful hit songs and had no thought she was so humorous. She was enlisted for an emergency, last-minute phase when one thing else fell by means of in Calgary again in 2004.

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“I simply imagined this soft-spoken, quiet individual mentioning the Calgary Tower in a really melancholy method, making some unhappy remark,” he says. “I assumed ‘I could have my work lower out for me.’ After all, she confirmed up like a whirling dervish and she or he didn’t cease speaking. I knew she can be gold and I knew she would develop into an everyday on a present that philosophically by no means had regulars.”

Touring his e-book will give Mercer an opportunity to revisit his cross-country TV days, which ended when the Rick Mercer Report went off the air in 2018 after 15 seasons. As for politics, Mercer nonetheless pays consideration, in fact, however out of curiosity slightly than necessity.

“I’m nonetheless somebody who has a lot of opinions, I simply share them with three or 4 folks each night time on the phone like so many different Canadians,” he says. “I simply don’t have a platform within the hundreds of thousands anymore. However, sure, in fact, there are events the place I want that I used to be writing commentary in some type or one other or within the sketch enterprise once more. However, in the interim, I’m joyful not being within the commentary enterprise.”

Rick Mercer and Jann Arden will seem at The Grand for a Wordfest occasion on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. This occasion is bought out. The Street Years: A Memoir Continued is now in shops.

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